Documents like living wills are part of a complicated area of estate planning known as “planning for incapacity.” This component of estate planning can also be emotionally taxing since it involves dealing with the inevitability of your own mortality. For this reason it is essential to have an estate planning attorney who is not only well-credentialed and knowledgeable, but who has the empathy to understand the sensitivities involved.
If you live in or around the Dallas and Fort Worth, or anywhere in Tarrant County, the Law Office of Carey Thompson, PC is available to provide you with excellent legal guidance. Our attorneys focus on this aspect of the law so we have in-depth understanding of Texas and federal laws governing estate planning to ensure that any documents we draft and review for you will be legally binding.
What Are Living Wills? How Does It Differ From Other Estate Planning Documents?
It is easy to become confused about the various documents related to estate planning. Let’s clarify some important distinctions. While a will (as in “Last Will and Testament”) states your wishes regarding how your assets will be distributed after your death and who will manage your estate, a living will is a written statement declaring which medical treatment you do or do not want if you become terminally ill.
A living will, also referred to in Texas as an advance medical directive, does not designate a person who will make healthcare decisions for you if you become incapacitated — that is the purpose of a healthcare Power of Attorney (POA). Rather, a living will states your own wishes about what measures you want taken (or not taken) to preserve your life when you are at the end of your life. A Texas living will must be signed by witnesses or be notarized.
Legal Requirements for Creating a Valid Living Wills in Texas
Under the Natural Death Act of Texas, living wills define which medical procedures or interventions will be used when death is imminent to “artificially postpone the moment of death.” In order for a living will to be valid in Texas, it must be:
- Created by a competent adult
- Witnessed by two individuals if written
- Witnessed by two individuals plus an attending physician if given orally
- Signed into medical records by the witnesses and doctor if given orally
In Texas, pregnant women cannot create a legally binding living will.
Why Should You Have Both a Living Will and a Medical Power of Attorney?
The reason it is a good idea to have both a medical Power of Attorney and a living will is that emergency situations arise when the person to whom you have yielded “power of attorney” is not available. In such cases, the physicians attending you, who may not be familiar with your case or with you personally, may make choices that are against your wishes. Since presumably you will be unable to directly communicate your desires, the living will gives you a legal “voice” in matters of your own future healthcare.
Situations Covered by Living Wills
There are a number of situations in which having made out a living will determines how your medical care will proceed. Although most people think of a living will as the document that determines when you want medical professionals to “pull the plug,” there are many more subtle conditions that may be covered by such a document, including:
- How you want your pain controlled
- What you consider “comfortable” treatment
- Whether you want a feeding tube inserted
- Whether you want to be kept alive by a tracheotomy
Though unpleasant to consider, unexpected accidents and medical events often put people in a terminal condition without warning. Since none of us can predict what the future holds, the time to start preparing a living will is now when you are clear-headed and healthy.
Don’t Keep Your Living Will a Secret
It is not enough to clarify your wishes in the legal document the Law Office of Carey Thompson prepares for you. You should discuss its contents with your doctors and your loved ones so that they understand your mindset. If your doctor, or any doctor at the time you become terminally ill, is not able to carry out your wishes due to his/her personal ethical or religious beliefs, that doctor must be ready to stand aside and let another medical professional follow your guidelines.This statute is written clearly into Texas law. Also, no doctor who follows the directives of your living will can be held legally responsible for assisting suicide under Texas law.
Your Living Will Can Be Changed
You should be aware that you can alter a living will at any time, so there is no downside to having an adept Carey Thompson living will attorney draft one now. If you change your mind, we will be happy to help you make the necessary changes. Recognize, however, that if you make changes it is your responsibility to make sure your doctor is notified.
Carey Thompson Keeps Control of Your Life in Your Hands
Like most of our clients, you undoubtedly want to have as much control over decisions affecting your life as possible. Our competent, caring estate planning attorneys are eager to help you plan for your future. Why not contact us and discover how thorough and efficient legal representation can be. We will assist you in creating a living will and taking care of all other estate planning matters.